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  Report: Soyuz escape system has a problem

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Author Topic:   Report: Soyuz escape system has a problem
Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 03-31-2010 07:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
MSNBC: Russians report snag in space safety system
When astronauts blast off to the International Space Station in a Soyuz spacecraft on Friday, they'll be relying on a safety system that failed in a still-unexplained manner less than a year ago, a top Russian space official said Tuesday.

A NASA spokesman told msnbc.com that the U.S. space agency's representatives in Russia had heard about the problem with the Soyuz's launch escape system -- but were assured that it was no big deal.

Other NASA sources told msnbc.com that they hadn't been told that the system malfunctioned during a launch last May. And by all accounts, the cause of that malfunction has not yet been determined...

SpaceAholic
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Posts: 3023
From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 03-31-2010 07:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is the pre-Apollo 1/STS-51L culture reemerging within NASA and is this the same approach to risk we are going to see permeate contracted HSF services in the commercial sector under the new Obama plan?

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 03-31-2010 07:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Or is it really "no big deal," as the Russians advised? According to acting associate administrator for public affairs Bob Jacobs:
[Jacobs] said NASA personnel in Russia knew about the problem -- even if workers back in the United States did not.

"While there was an anomaly, the issue did not affect its functionality," Jacobs explained in an e-mail. "Our Russian partners didn't notify us because it was not considered a safety of flight issue. Had the performance review shown otherwise, NASA would have been notified during the standard general design reviews or stage operation readiness reviews."

Jacobs said that Russian engineers "have been very forthright in describing the anomaly and its resolution for future flights."

"Our Russian colleagues work problems with the same rigor and dedication as NASA engineers and will discuss any issues with us as they arise and affect joint operations or safety," he said.

Lasv3
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From: Bratislava, Slovakia
Registered: Apr 2009

posted 03-31-2010 11:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lasv3   Click Here to Email Lasv3     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From the posts above it is not clear what really happened - could you please explain?

LES is normally activated only in case of the catastrophic launch failure. If launch goes well then it is separated. Was it something related to the separation phase (as the launch was obviously nominal)?

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 04-01-2010 12:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Lasv3:
From the posts above it is not clear what really happened - could you please explain?
Here are the key passages from the linked MSNBC article by Jim Oberg:
The tower is routinely jettisoned two minutes after launch when it is no longer needed, but [during the Soyuz TMA-15 launch] the central thrust chamber malfunctioned, and the discarded rocket landed far from its target area.

...Western analysts worry that if the Soyuz's rocket booster malfunctioned, the escape system might not have provided adequate thrust to get the crew clear of the explosion, possibly resulting in their deaths.

The article notes that the Russian investigation board is still "analyzing the failure."

cspg
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posted 04-01-2010 01:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Strange. The only problem seems to be that the "discarded rocket" didn't "land" where it was supposed to be. But that didn't impact the flight of TMA-15 (the escape rocket apparently did separate from the Soyuz booster).

And from next year on, the US will solely depend on the Russian Soyuz, this story pops up now as a pure coincidence, right?

issman1
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From: UK
Registered: Apr 2005

posted 04-01-2010 02:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This sounds reminiscent of the ballistic re-entries endured by Soyuz crews in 2007 and 2008.

The Russians fixed the root cause of that, so I'm sure they'll fix this. But to launch a crew with a potential flaw in the escape system is what the late Richard Feynman described as playing "Russian roulette" during the Challenger investigation.

These three cosmonauts are especially courageous.

Tonyq
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From: UK
Registered: Jul 2004

posted 04-01-2010 03:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tonyq   Click Here to Email Tonyq     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by cspg:
The only problem seems to be that the "discarded rocket" didn't "land" where it was supposed to be.
Surely the point is that the "discarded rocket" didn't land in the right place because it had malfunctioned and didn't perform as it should have done.

This wasn't a major issue because it was being "discarded", but if it had been required to perform it's function as a launch escape system it might not have done so properly, thus putting the crew at significant risk.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 04-01-2010 08:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by cspg:
...this story pops up now as a pure coincidence, right?
Yes, a coincidence, seeing as though this report originated in the Russian media and is attributable to a Russian official at the plant that produces the escape systems.

Lou Chinal
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From: Staten Island, NY
Registered: Jun 2007

posted 04-01-2010 10:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There was a central thrust chamber malfunction
That would seem to be a big problem to me.

moorouge
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From: U.K.
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posted 04-03-2010 07:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by issman1:
But to launch a crew with a potential flaw in the escape system
Let's not get carried away. One minor failure in how many launches? It's what is known as risk assessment. One cannot eliminate every risk or nobody would launch. One does the best one can to minimise them and understand what went wrong when something does happen that isn't quite as it should be.

issman1
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From: UK
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posted 04-03-2010 08:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I understand the concept of risk-assessment, but Challenger and Columbia proved it's best to correct problems sooner rather than later.

One gets the impression the Russian Space Agency is under huge pressure to launch manned Soyuz rockets on schedule and without delay.

This problem with the escape system was known for months, yet crews were launched anyway. It's a gamble.

cspg
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From: Geneva, Switzerland
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posted 04-03-2010 08:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wait until next year when there will be ONLY one vehicle available to reach the ISS. It's a bad idea.

Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 04-03-2010 10:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by issman1:
One gets the impression the Russian Space Agency is under huge pressure to launch manned Soyuz rockets on schedule and without delay.
Russia sets its own Soyuz launch schedule with really no outside influence. NASA does not have input into Soyuz launch schedules other than working with Russia to avoid dual-docked ops with the shuttle.
quote:
This problem with the escape system was known for months, yet crews were launched anyway. It's a gamble.
Russian design and engineering culture is different from the United States' and Europe's. They don't (generally) use clean (or white) rooms, for example, and their redundant (back-up) systems are not duplicates but rather completely different designs. But it works for them and they have the flight record to prove it works.
quote:
Originally posted by cspg:
Wait until next year when there will be ONLY one vehicle available to reach the ISS. It's a bad idea.
It's not an ideal situation for sure, but it's no different then what happened between Feb. 2003 to July 2005.

All times are CT (US)

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